Attorney General William Barr: It Is Justice Department’s ‘Responsibility’ to Make Decision on Obstruction

Attorney General William Barr said Thursday that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded there was no criminal obstruction of justice by President Trump because it is their responsibility as prosecutors to make that decision.

“The very prosecutorial function and all our powers as prosecutors, including the power to convene grand juries and compulsory process that’s involved there, is for one purpose and one purpose only: it’s to determine, yes or no, was alleged conduct criminal or not criminal,” Barr said during a press conference before the release of the special counsel report.

He said:

That is our responsibility, and that’s why we have the tools we have, and we don’t go through this process just to collect information and throw it out to the public. We collect this information, we use that compulsory process, for the purpose of making that decision. And because the special counsel did not make that decision, we felt the Department had to, and that was a decision by me and the deputy attorney general.

Barr held a press conference at the Justice Department just before the planned release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, which concluded that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, but did not make a decision either way on if the president obstructed justice.

Barr revealed at the press conference that Mueller and his team looked at ten episodes involving the president and discussed potential legal theories for connecting his actions to elements of an obstruction offense but did not come to a traditional prosecutorial judgment.

Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, in consultation with Justice Department lawyers, concluded that the evidence developed by Mueller “is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offense.”

Barr said he and Rosenstein disagreed with some of the special counsel’s legal theories and felt that some of the ten episodes did not amount to obstruction “as a matter of law.” He also said they accepted the special counsel’s legal framework for the purpose of their analysis and evaluated the evidence the special counsel presented.

In assessing that evidence, Barr expressed sympathy for Trump, noting that there was “relentless speculation” in the news media about Trump’s guilt despite his saying from the beginning that there was no collusion.

“President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered into office and sought to perform his responsibilities as president, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, as well as the conduct of some of his associates. At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the president’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was, in fact, no collusion,” Barr said.

“And as the special counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents and fueled by illegal leaks,” he added.

Barr also said the White House “fully cooperated” with Mueller’s investigation, providing “unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims.”

“And at the same time, the president took no act that, in fact, deprived the special counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation. Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the president had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation.”

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